President Obama Casts His Absentee Ballot, Will Out-Of-State Students Follow His Example?

Democrat donkey versus Republican elephant

Will tomorrow’s mid-term election result reverse this picture?

With the kick-off of mid-term elections hours away, many polls about whether a believed turnover in Congress will happen have reached a dead-lock.

Real Clear Politics‘ 2010 Election Map projects the Republican gaining a majority in the House (Republican with 224 seats versus 177 Democratic seats). In the Senate, a toss-up between the two party’s candidates (Democrats’ slim majority of 49 seats versus GOP’s 45 seats) makes wagers of a divided Congress with each party controlling one of the houses more plausible.

Alongside early voting at local polling stations, absentee ballots are beginning to be sent out, since most states’ deadlines to request absentee ballots were earlier this week. College students, who were considered a crucial part of “Obama’s coalition“, will make up no small fraction of absentee votes sent out.

Nearly two million college students attend out-of-state colleges and universities. The findings of an October 2009 study [PDF] by Northwestern University’s Center for Civic Engagement reported that some schools have larger-than-average concentrations of out-of-state students.

“Half of all out-of-state students may be found at colleges at which 45-100 percent of their classmates are also from out-of-state,” the report reads. That’s millions of voters included in the vaunted “youth vote” that are often ignored in polls that are supposed to representative of the American public.

With the issue of skewed polls aside, the 2010 mid-term election provides the youth vote with an opportunity to further disprove the mass assumption that they do not vote.

The Civic Engagement study also found that college students were more likely to vote—via absentee ballots or return home to vote in-person—if their home state was a swing state such as Arizona and Ohio. And in the mid-term elections, Illinois is home to one of several key races considered pivotal in deciding which party will control Congress.

Illinois is also the state where President Barack Obama casts his absentee vote for the gubernatorial and Senate races.

The millions of out-of-state students who are registered to vote and received their absentee ballots should see President Obama’s example as proof that civic duty knows no limit: If the “most powerful person in the world” made time to fill out some forms, then college students shouldn’t be afraid to do likewise. The November 2 mid-terms do not involve nerve-wrecking exams—as a George Washington University graduate student writes in an editorial for the Baltimore Sun.

In “Youth voters, don’t be afraid of these midterms,” Kara van Stralen’s advises college students to turn out at the polls, since “these midterms are clearly worth more than a grade.” Both undergraduate students and recent college graduate face the problem that ranks as the number one concern of Americans: unemployment. Unemployment among recent college graduates made a record last year when it increased to 8.7 percent from 5.8 percent in 2008. In addition to unemployment, college undergraduate and graduate students also grapple with mounting student-loan debts. On average, 2009 graduates leave their college campuses with $24,000 in debt.

As academic mid-terms draw to close, students shouldn’t let the mid-term elections pass them by without voting to make their voices on heard on such as issues as job creation and reforming student loans. Unlike President Obama’s Democrat-only picks for Illinois, their absentee ballots will remain secret (like their mid-term grades unless they blog about it) and will count like any other ballot submitted in-person.

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